Did you know that the majority of first time visitors coming to SA do so on a business trip? The importance of business tourism cannot be underestimated, and few have a better understanding of SA’s potential in this sector than the Directors of the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg, Kevin Clarence and Jazzman Mahlakgane.

As the largest conferencing facility in the southern hemisphere, the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre hosts travellers attending events in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions space (MICE tourism) and is this year celebrating its 20th year of operation.

“The key to our success over the years is our strong foundation, centred around convenience, customer feedback and always tailoring our offering to the needs of the modern business traveller,” says Clarence, who founded the hotel with his late father Brian Clarence.

With over 53ha of gardens consisting of over 60 meeting, banqueting and conferencing facilities, three levels of accommodation offerings (665 rooms), free shuttles to and from the airport every hour, a variety of onsite restaurants, a gym and pool and a Mangwanani Spa, the Birchwood Hotel offers the corporate traveller a secure, relaxed and professional experience.

“Convenience is central to our business model, which is why are situated just 7km from OR Tambo International Airport and offer a wide range of onsite facilities to ensure our guests have the most comfortable stay,” says Mahlakgane.

The country hosts close to one million delegates and supports over 250 000 jobs every year (according to the South African National Convention Bureau). Clarence and Mahlakgane are firm believers that business tourism can meaningfully contribute to both international investment as well as economic growth.

“We started out with just 86 rooms and one conference room. Every year saw new developments that enabled us to stay relevant and meet the needs of the discerning business traveller. As a result, we’ve been fortunate enough to create employment opportunities in the East Rand and every year our staff compliment grows,” says Clarence.

“It is important to us that we give our international guests a positive experience in our beautiful country to break down any negative preconceived connotations they may have and hopefully facilitate their interest in the business potential that exists,” says Mahlakgane.

When asked what the key to the hotel’s success was, both directors agreed that it is not as much about size, positioning and investment into development, as it is about people.

“We believe that our standard of excellence is maintained through our staff, the people that come to work every day feeling proud to be a part of our family and hold the Birchwood flag high when dealing with visitors. It is them who enable us to contribute meaningfully to SA’s tourism sector,” says Clarence.

For more information about the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre, visit www.birchwoodhotel.co.za.

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